Al fresco dining, Renaissance style

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
A bowl of cherries, some marzipan sweets and a glass or two of weak white wine gives a flavour of an Elizabethan banquet. Those who want something more substantial for their picnic lunch could try a simple cold roast chicken with a salad. Elizabethan salads were similar to those we eat today and usually dressed with oil, vinegar and salt.

Sample this one from Robert May's The Accomplisht Cook (1660): Grand sallet of beets, currants and greens.

"Take the youngest and smallest leaves of spinage, the smalest also of sorrel, well washed currans, and red beets round the centre being finely carved, oyl and vinegar, and the dish garnished with lemon and beets."

And for dessert... You could pop this version of leche in your cool bag.

Rose petal milk jelly

Take 50g caster sugar, a handful of rose petals, one pint of milk, 20ml gelatine. Add the sugar and rose petals to the milk and infuse over a gentle heat for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Put the gelatine in three tbsp water in a small bowl. Dissolve by standing the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Add the cooled milk. Pour into roasting tin or similar and leave to set. Once set, cut into cubes. Thomas Dawson, author of The Good Huswives Jewell (1596) then suggests: "Lay it fair in dishes, and lay golde upon it".

Where to do it

* Lyveden New Bield, Oundle, Peterborough, is open every day in August. For further details telephone 01832 205358 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk placeslyvedennewbield

* Buckland Abbey, Devon, home of Sir Francis Drake and now equipped with a new Elizabethan garden.

* Burton Agnes Hall, an impressive Elizabethan house on the north-east coast of Yorkshire.

* Burghley in Lincolnshire, William Cecil's grand residence.

* Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, home of the characterful Bess of Hardwick.

* Parham House, West Sussex, set in an ancient deer park close to the South Downs.

* Penshurst Place, Kent. Admire Sir Henry Sidney's Elizabethan gardens.

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